Sox Drawer: How to overcome the Twins

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Sox Drawer: How to overcome the Twins

Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011
Posted 5:54 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - Minnesota is a lovely state, 12th largest in the U.S., and the original homes of Bob Dylan, Prince and Winona Ryder; not to mention countless moose, elk, bears, ducks, geese, fish, and prairie dogs.

But bring up its baseball team to any warm-blooded White Sox fan, and you will hear John Q. South Sider describe a dark, grisly place - a squad notorious for getting under your skin, quietly and gradually twisting itself around your arteries and large intestine, and staying there for about a decade.

Like cigarettes and alcohol, the Minnesota Twins can be hazardous to your health.

Especially last year, which might have been the equivalent of chain smoking a shelf of Marlboros and drinking a full keg of beer.

We were 5-13 against them, something like that. Matt Thornton remembers way too accurately. They beat us. They had a better team last year. They beat us up. They were the difference in us winning the division last year.

So true. And the Twins did it without their best power hitter, Justin Morneau, for most of the season (concussion) and closer Joe Nathan for all of it (elbow surgery).

But it wasnt a shock to the White Sox. Theyve seen it all before.

No matter who they lose, or go down with injury, they always have guys who step in and fill their spots, Mark Buehrle said. They lose one of the best closers in baseball last year and everyone thinks, There goes their chances. Its going to be us or Detroit. And the next thing you know, they still win the division.

I ask Buehrle how much he detests the Twins, and to put a number on it between 1 and 10. I thought hed say 11, but got an answer I wasnt expecting.

I dont want to put a number on it. Theyre obviously our biggest division rival and theyre the team thats there every year. But thats one of the most respected teams I have for in the league.

Seriously?

A lot of those guys I enjoy playing against. Off the field I like talking to those guys. (Jim) Thome is over there now and says theyre great guys. Theyre not a dirty team, they play baseball right. So theres a lot about the Twins organization that Im a fan of.

And therein lies the problem. The Twins, despite their recent domination over the Sox (winning the Central Division in six of the last nine years) are just too nice for the Sox to hate.

Its like despising a puppy dog or a kitten. They cant do it.

Name a bad guy on the Twins. Think, think, think. There isnt one.

Yeah, Joe Mauer can be annoying for making 35 trips to the pitchers mound, Morneau never cracks a smile, and Jason Kubel is legally obligated to hit a homer off the Sox in every game for the rest of his life, but under that Twins uniform theyre all wholesome, down-to-earth good people. Not a bad apple in there. Having Thome, one of the most gentle, good-hearted human beings on the planet, certainly isnt helping.

But something has to change.

Yes, the White Sox can praise and admire the Twins if they want, but after the drubbing they took last year, its time to keep those compliments to a minimum - or something close to never. You dont hear the Yankees and Red Sox talk in such a glowing way about each other. It just doesnt happen.

Since the White Sox couldnt beat em in 2010, applaud Kenny Williams for going out and atleast trying to sign em.

Hello, Jesse Crain!

If there was a White Sox killer on the Twins, Crain could often be seen holding a baseball and tomorrows obituary. In 49 career innings against the Sox, Crains ERA is 1.45. And last season? Forget about it, the Sox didnt have a chance. In 10 13 innings, Crain gave up three hits, no runs, and had 10 strikeouts.

No surprise Williams swooped in and gave Crain a three-year, 13-million dollar contract.

So Jesse, mi compadre, now that youve joined forces with the White Sox, whats the secret? How have the Twins been able to beat the Sox so many times over the years?

Its just one of those things where we were playing well and we had their number for a while, Crain said. We could go out there and never feel like we were out of it, and just play hard. Hopefully that switches this year.

Crain had three or four teams in hot pursuit of him, including the Red Sox who eventually signed Bobby Jenks. The White Sox entered the picture at the last minute, completing the deal in about 24 hours. Getting a three-year contract played a big part in Crain coming to Chicago, but so did something else.

After they signed Adam Dunn, they already signed (Paul) Konerko and (A.J.) Pierzynski, I knew they were going to have a great team, and Ive played against them for so long that I know that, Crain said. I know how well were going to do, so that was a huge thing. I want to be apart of a team that has a chance to win.

Take that Minnesota.

And maybe the White Sox can take a cue from John Danks, the last Sox pitcher to beat the Twins in a big game, The Blackout of 2008.

We respect the heck out of them, Danks said. But I think we kind of need to lose a little bit of respect and go out there and beat them up a little bit.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.